Gibson’s Lawsuit Will Go To Trial


Talia Rose

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery against the College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in 2017 will go to trial May 1.

After 18 months of negotiation and discovery research, the lawsuit that Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart brought against Oberlin College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo could go to trial early next month, unless a settlement is reached in the next week. Gibson’s filed the suit in November 2017, accusing the College and Raimondo of libel, slander, interference with business relationships, intentional interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and trespassing.

The trial is set to begin May 1 and is expected to last about a month. Judge John Miraldi of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas will preside over the case.

Oberlin Director of Media Relations Scott Wargo said that the College has been working for months to reach a resolution with the local business.

“The court has notified Oberlin College that … the Gibsons’ claims against Oberlin College and Dean Raimondo will move forward in court on May 1,” Wargo said. “We are disappointed. Every effort to resolve this matter has been to no avail. We believe the evidence is clear. Neither Oberlin College nor Dr. Raimondo defamed a local business [nor] its owners. Colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of students. Employers are not legally responsible for employees who express personal views on personal time. The law is clear on these issues.”

The current tension between the College and Gibson’s began in November 2016 when a Black student attempted to make a purchase at Gibson’s Bakery and was accused of shoplifting. The student ran outside the store and Allyn Gibson, the son of owner David Gibson, followed him. Gibson allegedly tackled the student, and the two got into a physical altercation. Two of the student’s friends saw the altercation and began hitting and pulling on Gibson to get him away from the student.

A customer in the shop saw the altercation and called the Oberlin Police Department out of concern for the students’ safety. When the police arrived, they immediately arrested the three Black students and refused to take statements from some students and witnesses who were present.

After the arrest, students organized a 12-hour boycott outside Gibson’s Bakery to protest what they characterized as racial profiling from Allyn Gibson, who is white, as well as the Oberlin Police Department.

Charges were filed against the students involved in the altercation, and after a 10-month long investigative process, all three pled guilty to misdemeanor charges in August 2017 in order to avoid the uncertainty of a trial. As part of the plea deal, they also read statements recanting any racial profiling accusations against Allyn Gibson.

The Gibson’s suit accuses the College and Raimondo of sanctioning and aiding students in the protest and boycott effort. The bakery claims its reputation has been smeared and that it has lost a significant amount of business since the protests.

Despite the rift, the College maintains it is committed to mending ties with Oberlin’s local businesses while supporting students in their exercise of free speech.

“The College values its long relationship with the town of Oberlin and its businesses,” Wargo said. “We will continue our commitment to the economic uplift of the local businesses that make this community, county, and region a destination of choice. The claims in this case conflict with the obligations of higher education to protect freedom of speech on college campuses. The College respects the rights of all individuals to express their personal opinions and to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Attorneys for the Gibson family did not return calls requesting comment.